ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — A ‘For Sale’ sign on the Rockford IceHogs is publicly being posted. RAVE, Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority has taken the first steps toward most likely selling the franchise.
Wednesday afternoon RAVE board members voted unanimously to begin accepting proposals from potential buyers.
RAVE could sell of the entire franchise or a portion of it. Anyone can put in an offer to purchase the team, but it’s no secret that the Chicago Blackhawks are the entity that is the most likely one to strike a deal. The Blackhawks have had an affiliation agreement with the IceHogs since 2007. It would make sense if the Blackhawks were to own the team as many NHL teams do own their AHL affiliates.
RAVE board chairman Craig Thomas says the Blackhawks have expressed an interest in buying the IceHogs for some time.
“We expect to receive a proposal from them. We’ve had a lot of discussions with them over the past year about them wanting to have a stronger and deeper commitment here in Rockford, but it is open to a public bid if anyone else would meet the qualifications, but the Blackhawks are the logical bidder.”
Foundational to any agreement we would reach with them would be a long-term committment with the Blackhawks to keep AHL hockey here in Rockford, so how the city would benefit is it would be a long-term relationship beyond, significantly beyond what we have right now.”
Thomas believes the process of receiving a proposal or proposals for the franchise will move swiftly.
If the Blackhawks do buy the IceHogs they would then lease the BMO Harris Bank Center to keep the IceHogs playing in Rockford.
Such a sale would also help RAVE save upwards of one million dollars a year which it currently puts into the IceHogs through it’s affiliation agreement with the Blackhawks and through expenses on the IceHogs.
Thomas says any deal with the Blackhawks would also include massive improvements to the BMO Harris Bank Center to get it up to standards. He wouldn’t put a number on the cost of renovations other than to say it would be significant, but he is ‘extremely optimistic’ that they’ll be able to come up with the funding for the improvements through various funding sources and not on the backs of Rockford taxpayers.
RAVE owns the IceHogs and operates the BMO Harris Bank Center and the Coronado Theatre in downtown Rockford. The majority of its board members are appointed by the city of Rockford. The IceHogs were purchased from private owners in the city for $3 million in 2007 when the franchise stepped up from the UHL to the AHL and it became affiliated with the Blackhawks.